4.6 Important Terms
That’s a great question. Tenancy agreements can seem confusing and it might be hard to know what the document means. Let’s review five things to pay special attention to BEFORE you sign your agreement.
In BC there are two types of tenancies – month-to-month tenancies (periodic) and fixed-term tenancies (often called “leases”). A month-to-month tenancy does not have a specific end date. The tenancy continues until the tenant gives notice to move out, or until the landlord has a valid reason to end the tenancy.
A fixed-term tenancy does have a specific end date, most commonly after one year. If you are entering into a fixed-term tenancy, you’ll need to pay close attention to what the tenancy agreement says will happen at the end of the term. There are two possibilities:
Many tenancies begin as one year fixed-term agreements, but then become month-to-month after the first year. It is important to know ahead of time if you have the option to continue your tenancy, or if you need to move out and find somewhere new to live.
If possible, we recommend signing an agreement that will convert to month-to-month after the fixed-term. If you have an agreement that requires you to move out, the landlord might make you to sign a new agreement with different terms in order to stay.
Paying rent in full and on time is a tenant’s most important responsibility. Being even one day late paying rent can lead to an eviction notice. Ask your landlord how they would like to receive rent, and make sure you pay it by the due date – usually the 1st of each month.
You’ll also want to check if the rent will increase if another person moves in with you. Landlords are allowed to increase the rent if an additional person moves in, but only if the tenancy agreement states how much it will increase by.
Remember, there may be extra costs in addition to your basic rent. Does your tenancy agreement include the appliances and amenities that are important to you? Laundry? Parking? Storage? Utilities?
Are there special rules or policies about pets, smoking, roommates or accessibility? These are not mandatory terms that all tenants and landlords need to discuss, but for some tenants these will be very important factors to consider.
Look for any fees that your landlord has included in your tenancy agreement. For example, if you have a “liquidated damages” clause and you end your tenancy early, you may have to pay the costs associated with re-renting your unit. Or, if you will be living in a strata property, you may have to pay move-in and move-out fees. Remember what we said about paying rent being a tenant’s number one responsibility? Well the law allows a landlord to charge a $25 fee for late payment of rent if the tenancy agreement includes a term about that.
That may seem like a lot of information, but it is in your best interest to consider these five points. Once you sign an agreement, you can only make changes if you and the landlord both agree to the changes in writing.